Making every second count


By Roger Sharp, Chief Sustainability and Corporate Affairs Officer, Bupa Asia Pacific.

In keeping with prior years, this Saturday, 26 March, I’ll be turning off my lights at 8:30PM for Earth Hour, a symbolic gesture as part of a campaign that encourages widespread and urgent action on climate change. 

This comes amidst new studies from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggesting global temperatures are now 1.1 above pre-industrial levels and are likely to reach 1.5 above pre-industrial levels in the early 2030s.  This seemingly small increase in temperate has severe and irreversible consequence, particularly for many of the animals and species we share our planet with.

Earth Hour is something that aligns well with Bupa’s Net Zero and One Health ambitions and our belief that protecting the planet is essential if we are to protect the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities around the world.

The Earth Hour paradox

Roger Sharp, Bupa APAC Chief Sustainability & Corporate Affairs Officer

It often strikes me as ironic that the campaign’s hour-long call-to-action seems to amount to a gesture that lasts no more than a second… just a flick of a switch.

Roger Sharp, Bupa APAC Chief Sustainability & Corporate Affairs Officer

Indeed, if done absent-mindedly, Earth Hour can almost pass unnoticed as you go about your life as normal, post-switch-flick, with the glow of your smartphone or PC replacing the lights in your home. So how can we avoid falling into this trap and turning Earth Hour into “Earth Second”?

Perhaps it’s using the event as an opportunity to flick a switch in your mind and think deeply about the connection between the health of our planet and the health of all people and what we can do the following day, week, month etc… as individuals and as corporate citizens to make a positive impact.

Where to start?

The concept of protecting our planet can be a daunting task given the enormity of the challenge, and quite frankly, many of us are not in the best brainstorming state of mind on a Saturday night! As such, I find a great place to start is thinking about a person or organisation who has inspired me recently. Exploring their ambitions and actions can be a great jump-off point to develop new ideas.

In recent times I have had the pleasure of meeting a lotof extraordinary sustainability leaders and organisations (both big and small) as part of my role at Bupa. And I know exactly where my mind will wander to this Earth Hour… Fire Rescue Victoria... hopefully not because of a candle mishap!

 A cause for inspiration

The reason Fire Rescue Victoria will occupy my thoughts is because I had the honour of presenting them with a Banksia Sustainability Award last night, where Bupa sponsored a new award category for Health & Wellbeing.

Along with being an emergency service provider in my home state of Victoria, Fire Rescue Victoria has also been undertaking significant work in protecting the health of the environment and local communities by developing solutions aimed at reducing the usage of chemicals used in firefighting foams.

These “polyfluoroalkyl substances” or PFAS chemicals are of concern because they are highly mobile in water (so travel long distances from their source); do not fully break down naturally in the environment and have been linked to health issues for both people and animals.

Along with leading decontamination initiatives in fire stations and establishing safe PFAS threshold limits for firefighters, Fire Rescue Victoria has been active in delivering key PFAS-related submissions to Federal and State Governments and the United Nations. They were worthy winners of a Banksia Award with whom I was humbled to share the stage.

Turning inspiration into action

Roger Sharp, Bupa APAC Chief Sustainability & Corporate Affairs Officer

At Bupa, we have some significant environmental ambitions, but we know that we can't stop climate change alone. We need everyone to play their part, including small non-profit organisations like Fire Rescue Victoria that are making a big difference in protecting our environment and the health of people at a grassroots level.

Roger Sharp, Bupa APAC Chief Sustainability & Corporate Affairs Officer

These organisations are often the unsung heroes of the sustainability movement, working tirelessly to protect our natural resources, promote sustainable living, and create a healthier future for all. Recognising the unique power of smaller organisations is a key reason we developed the eco-Disruptive program which sees us partner with sustainable start-ups to create innovative environmental solutions.

 So maybe this Earth Hour, try not to start the 60 minutes by thinking of a blue-sky idea on your own, maybe think about an organisation or person whose values echo yours and find a way to support them to amplify them to build them into something greater than they are.

In just one hour, I’ll bet you can think of dozens of ways you could partner with them through volunteering, fundraising or advocacy to make a meaningful and lasting difference together.

 As we mark Earth Hour this Saturday, let's all take a moment to reflect on the interconnectedness of our planet and the health of people. Let's commit to taking action to protect our environment and create a healthier, more sustainable future for all.

 Most importantly, let’s not try to solve all the world’s problems on our own in just one hour. Rather, flick the switch and think about who you could solve the world’s problems with.